New report recommends effective water solutions in CO River Basin

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DENVER, CO, July 17, 2014 -- Today, American Rivers and Western Resource Advocates -- two authorities on Western water issues -- issued a new report that identifies conservation, reuse and other innovative solutions that could eliminate Western water shortages stemming from the over-stressed Colorado River. The report defines five cost-effective and clearly defined solutions that -- if implemented at a larger scale across the basin -- could meet the water needs of the West's businesses, agriculture and growing population through 2060.

The report, titled "The Hardest Working River in the West: Common-Sense Solutions for a Reliable Water Future for the Colorado River Basin," provides a comprehensive package of methods to conserve water. Further, it estimates that 4.4 million acre-feet of water could be saved and made available for other uses if these methods are implemented throughout the basin -- more than enough water to meet projected growth in water needs in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, for the next half-century.

The five critical steps for possibly solving our current and future water shortages are:

  • Municipal conservation: Saving 1.0 million acre-feet through such efforts as improved landscaping techniques, rebate programs that incentivize water-saving devices and standardized water audits
  • Municipal reuse: Saving 1.2 million acre-feet through gray water treatment and reuse for irrigation, industrial uses and other purposes
  • Agricultural efficiency and water banking: Saving 1.0 million acre-feet via voluntary, compensated improvements in irrigation efficiency and technology, crop shifting and other measures (while avoiding permanently taking agricultural lands out of production)
  • Renewable energy and energy efficiency: Saving 160,000 acre-feet using wind, solar PV, geothermal energy solutions, and new water-efficient thermoelectric power plants
  • Innovative water opportunities: Generating up to 1.1 million acre-feet through creative measures such as invasive plant removal, dust-on-snow mitigation and targeted inland desalinization.

This report comes at a critical time for these seven Western states. Just last week it was reported that the sustained drought in the southwestern U.S. has depleted Lake Mead to levels not seen since Hoover Dam was completed. Lake Powell, which supplies hydroelectric power to millions of people, is also critically low, jeopardizing its power production. Due to high water demands, the Colorado River no longer regularly reaches the sea and is at even further risk for depletion due to chronic drought and rapid population growth.

In addition to being cost-effective, these steps are potentially faster and resolve water challenges better and cheaper than dams or diversions. The five solutions in the report protect the West's recreational economy; are flexible enough to meet demand in high-snowpack, rainy or drought years; and protect the Colorado River for future generations.

See also:

"Water conservation campaign restores 10 million gallons of water to CO River"

"American Rivers releases America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2014 report"

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